Kenneth Prewitt, the former director of the U.S Census Bureau and currently the Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University, received the 2015 SAGE-CASBS award November 5 at the annual summit of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.
Established in 2013, the award recognizes outstanding achievement in the understanding and advancement of the behavioral and social sciences as they are applied to pressing social issues.
“Ken Prewitt has expertly bridged the theoretical and the practical, and as a result has made a lasting impact on American government and America’s citizens,” commented Sara Miller McCune, the founder and executive chair of SAGE (which is the parent of Social Science Space). “He is a forward-thinker, a champion of the federal statistical system, and a pioneer in advancing and advocating for the value of scholarly knowledge. In recent years, he has worked tirelessly to uphold the value of the social and behavioral sciences and in the process bridged another gap, between policymakers and social and behavioral scientists.”
Prewitt served as the Census director from 1998-2001, and managed the operations of the 2000 U.S. Census. He has also served as the director of the National Opinion Research Center; twice president of the Social Science Research Council (1979-1985 and 1995-1998); and senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation. He is presently chair of the Advisory Board of the Division of Social & Behavioral Sciences and Education, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine; president of the American Academy of Political & Social Sciences; and vice-chair of the board of the independent research institute NORC at the University of Chicago. He has written or co-written more than 100 articles and book chapters as well as 10 books, most recently 2013’s What is Your Race? The Census and Our Flawed Effort to Classify Americans. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, honorary degrees from Carnegie Mellon and Southern Methodist University, and a Distinguished Service Award from the New School for Social Research.
He was born Alton, Illinois in 1936 and first attended Southern Methodist University where he earned a B.A. in 1958 before earning his master’s the next year from Washington University; he also attended the Harvard School of Divinity. In 1963, he earned his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University.
“It is a bit unnerving to be singled out by two of the most innovative social science institutions of our era, both of which awed me a half-century ago – then a naïve graduate student doubtful that I would ever be published by SAGE or earn a residency at CASBS,” Prewitt was quoted after learning of the honor. “Unnerving, yes, but it is also pure delight to receive this award. It presents an opportunity to reflect on how far the social science enterprise writ large has come. It is also an incentive to consider fresh worries presented by the landscape we now navigate, one far removed from those innocent ambitions of the 1960’s. If today’s landscape has no ivory towers, what does it offer? Maybe ICAR research – “Indirectly Consequential Appreciated Retroactively.”
Margaret Levi, the director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, said Prewitt’s “influence on social science is deep and broad. His early scholarly work transformed our practices of data collection and analysis and thus our understanding of American politics. His more recent research and thinking contribute to advancing the policy relevance of social and behavioral science worldwide. He works tirelessly to demonstrate to government actors the importance of what social scientists do–and then to get social scientists to present in ways policymakers can hear.”